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Intriguing mood piece
Buddy-518 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Since nobody had the wherewithal or wisdom to re-release `2001' in the actual year 2001, a remake of Andrei Tarkovsky's comparable `Solaris' in 2002 would seem the next best thing. Like those two earlier films, Steven Soderbergh's latest work is something of an `art' science fiction film, far more concerned with philosophy and theme than with action and suspense. This may make the film a tough slog for modern day audiences who have been conditioned to be jolted out of their seats every five minutes while watching films of this genre. But for the deeper thinkers among us, `Solaris' offers a fairly intriguing sci-fi vision of the afterlife, a sort of new religious paradigm for the twenty-first century.

George Clooney stars as Chris Kelvin, a successful psychiatrist whose mentally ill wife - ironically enough, given his profession - killed herself a few years back. Chris is commissioned to travel to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris after strange things begin happening to the crew aboard the ship. It turns out that dead loved ones have started appearing to the people there, leading a number of the crewmembers to descend into madness and, in the worst cases, even commit suicide. It's not long before Chris' own dead wife, Rheya, arrives on the scene, prompting him to question whether she is real, a replica created for an unknown reason by the forces of the mysterious planet, or merely a figment of his own troubled conscience and imagination. The film taps into that desire we all have of somehow being miraculously reunited with a deceased love one. We can't help but be moved by Chris' intense desire to believe that all that is happening is real and that life with this person could indeed start back up where it left off. Clooney does a beautiful job conveying the inner struggle between the grieving husband who wants to reconnect emotionally with this strangely familiar woman whom he had thought forever lost to him and the rationalistic scientist who suspects that both she and their relationship are illusory and ephemeral. The film itself may be glacially paced, but the tension created by the situation pulls us through. Natascha McElhone brings an ethereal beauty to the role of the dead wife, and we are moved by her own confusion as to whether she is really this woman Rheya or merely some fabrication usurping the memories and feelings of someone long gone from the scene. Clooney and McElhone generate a strong romantic chemistry between them, both in the scenes aboard the ship and in the manifold flashbacks the storytellers use to reveal their relationship back on Earth. Viola Davis gives an intense performance as Helen Gordon, the rationalist of the group who tries to convince Chris that he must overcome his feelings and destroy this facsimile of Rheya or risk bringing potential destruction to the people back home.

`Solaris' has been shot in the widest screen ratio I have seen in years. It almost feels like one of those old Cinerama pictures from the 1950's and 1960's, which is surprising actually, given the fact that, for all its outer space trappings, the film is really an intimate, personal drama in quality and scale (if you rent this on video, do NOT opt for the `full screen' treatment; rather, make sure it is in the letterboxed format). Also, the set design and special effects are actually rather understated for a modern science fiction film – as is everything about `Solaris' in fact. Like `2001,' `Solaris' is filled with images and concepts whose significance and meaning aren't always readily apparent or easily spelled out for the audience. Just be forewarned that the film is more along the lines of a tone poem than a rip-roaring action adventure tale.

`Solaris' isn't a great film and I can certainly see why many people, expecting something different, might find themselves becoming restive and bored by it. For me, the film managed to seep under my skin and kept me interested most of the time. This is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but for those with patience and an appreciation for something a little different, `Solaris' has its share of rewards.
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Powerful, thought-provoking metaphysical journey - A great remake.
mstomaso4 May 2005
My two favorite examples of Hollywood utterly destroying GREAT foreign films are Vanilla Sky and City of Angels, which were abominations of two of my favorite films - Open Your Eyes and Wings of Desire. If you've seen Tarkovsky's brilliant "Solyaris" this film will seem more like an Americanized tribute than a Hollywoodization of a great piece of Soviet cinema. Some will likely ask why Soderbergh bothered to make this film if he couldn't improve on the original. Personally, I could not care less. This is a great film, and shows that it is possible for Americans to remake classic non-American films sensitively, intelligently and well.

To cut to the chase - if you like sci-fi with a soul,which stretches the boundaries of imagination, explores the uncharted realms of the human condition as much as the unknown realities of the universe, and swims upstream against the currents of ethics, physics, and even metaphysics, you will probably enjoy this moody, slow, multi-leveled and heavily textured film. If you're looking for light entertainment, stay away from this. This is a slow, intense film - dominated by dialog - and there is no action to speak of. Also, you need to let this movie pour into you slowly, so if you're not in the right frame of mind to pay attention and be receptive, you should save it for another occasion.

The cast is exceptionally good. This is unequivocally the best performance I have seen out of George Clooney, but the supporting cast and the female lead all blew me away. Soderbergh does have a talent for making actor's look good, even mediocre actors, but there is nothing mediocre about any of the performances in this film.

Though I recognize his talent, Soderberg's dialogical technique has worn particularly thin with me. The once fresh fast-paced, rapid-fire cuts and close-ups with the low-toned exchange of sentence fragments, and the myriad Soderberg imitators, particularly in television crime drama, have really gotten on my nerves. Solaris, however, is a bit different. There are only a few "Soderbergh moments" in this rich remake of the classic bit of 1970s soviet SciFi "Solyaris". Both films are based on a novella by the brilliant Stanislaw Lem. This film, perhaps even more than Tarkovsky's 1972 edgy, dark, and intense original, will appeal to exactly the sort of movie-goer that Lem's writing appeals to. Neither film captures Lem's quirky sense of humor. I am quite glad that Soderbergh chose to make Solaris with very much the same atmospheric eeriness, plot, and intellectual and emotional depth as the original. It is a tribute to his artistic integrity that he recognizes the brilliance of the original work, and imitates it wherever he can do no better, adding subtle and appropriate nuances and embellishments to make it his own. Some examples are the wonderfully minimalistic soundtrack, and the very Soderbergh symbolic use of lighting and color saturation to shift from the retrospective to the live-action shot. Perhaps the best tribute I can give this film is the fact that I am going to watch the original again in a few days for comparative purposes.

In other words, this isn't going to be for everybody, nor, even, for most. I am hardly surprised by the very low (in my opinion) ratings received by this film here on IMDb. Solaris is a love story, a story of exploring the fringes of sanity, and of questioning the very nature of reality, and much more. Enjoy it!
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Neither bored nor enthralled me
bilahn17 July 2006
I always find it interesting to approach a movie that has people so polarized - in this case "it was sooooo slow" vs. "uplifting and incredible." That seems to go for the critics as well. My reaction was neither.

I am predisposed to like this kind of science fiction - the low key and wonderful "Gattaca" comes to mind. I found the story very intriguing and atmospheric and it held my interest - at the same time I felt something was missing and it just wasn't as rich, complex and good as it should have been.

I am not sure why, I think the key for me is that I was not able to really get emotionally involved with the love story - and this is first and foremost a love story. I have trouble with most love stories, due to my own particular biases, so there has to be a lot there to really identify with it. I think the problem here was the casting and acting - it could have been a lot better. The woman playing Gordon was rather flat as well.

Also the script was a little too obvious.

All in all, an interesting film that I am glad I saw, but I can't really get worked up about it.
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SF for the Blade Runner/2001 crowd... not necessarily for the Star Wars crowd
Surecure27 June 2004
First off, if you are looking for shoot 'em up, space ship flying through the stars, hunting aliens type of science fiction, don't even bother with this film. If you are looking for a Science Fiction film that explores the human condition in the way that Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey or Contact does, then this is right up your alley.

This film is not about events and actions, it's about ideas and concepts. People looking for plot points to move them along will be bored to death with this film because most of the action of this film are those that will happen in your head. It is about people, desires, regrets and what we would be willing to do if we could have that one thing we cannot have back.

Some people complain about the fact that Clooney's character of Chris does very little psychiatric work in this film. But, the truth of the matter is that his occupation is used more to propel his anti-faith views. I haven't seen it mentioned, but there is a reason why there are a lot of discussion about God, religion and faith in this film.

Throughout the film, Chris questions and belittles Rheya's religious views, seeing the idea of putting stock in something that he sees as fantasy as being useless and just a crutch for people deluding themselves into a happiness based on illusion. Chris comes to realize that he would give up anything to be with Rheya, whether being with her is an illusion or not. His happiness depends on her, and he realizes that accepting what he needs is not a weakness -- as accepting faith is not a weakness -- it is simply a choice to fulfill one's life, whether it be real or illusion. And, as philosophers would argue, who can really say which is which?

For those who want a science fiction film to make you think (like Blade Runner does), this film is it. With a tremendous cast, beautiful production design, excellent direction, and one of the best film scores in recent years (hats off to Cliff Martinez), I have no trouble recommending this film to anybody who is in the need of an intelligent, thought-provoking film.
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you'll love this (or hate this)
SnoopyStyle19 January 2004
Psychologist Dr. Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) is sent to a space station to investigate an unusual phenomena experienced by his friend Dr. Gibarian. He arrives to find Gibarian and most of the crew dead. Survivors Snow (Jeremy Davies) and Dr. Gordon (Viola Davis) are mercurial. Chris Kelvin starts having visions of his dead wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone).

This is a great film but a terrible movie. You love car chases, big explosions, laugh tracks, or big emotional cues. DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM!!! YOU WILL HATE IT. Soderbergh said it right. "If you hate the first 10 min, walk out right away. It's not going' get any better." The acting is terrific. Soderbergh uses all of his cinematic tricks in a minimalist vision. It opened my eyes to both GC and Soderbergh. In GC, I thought you had a popular guy who uses his charm to act his way thru most of his projects. In this, his range and acting ability is complete. Without a doubt, it is his best performance. In Soderbergh, I thought you had a good mechanical director who's able to produce hits. His best film "Sex, Lies and Videotape" was well behind him. In this film, he shows his experimental side and love of cinematic. There is no shot that was sub-par. This looks beautiful. The movie is able to move in some sections even without dialog. Only a true master could pull that off. Add to that, you have Natasche McElhone and Jeremy Davies in their top performances.
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It's emotions and reactions - terrifically engaging!
janyeap26 November 2002
The state of human minds has always been so abstract and never easy an easy subject to comprehend. It's even more complex to decipher on screen. Nope, this film is not strictly a ghost story, nor is it a Star Trek adventure story to interest most science-fiction craving fans. Don't expect to see the usual Hollywood sweet romantic tale either! This film focuses on the psychological journey faced by the despaired and unstable minds. It's a film that totally relies on the characters' emotions and reactions. Awesome!

Has Steven Soderbergh succeeded in sprucing up Andrei Tarkovski's 1972 psychological cult sci-fi classic to make it worth the while to pay a regular price of a tix? Can't really say, as I've never seen the Russian version. But I was truly mesmerized by this film's approach to what, I think, is the study of human insanity slipping beyond saving.

The film is slow in pace and lengthy, with stretches of tedious silence, letting the imagination of the viewers try understand what happened to each of the characters seen, or heard. Silence comes with such intensity that it works very proficiently in this film. There are dazzlingly and ecstatically artistic visual moments to offer that dreamlike stance. At other times, Soderbergh provides a more solid spectrum allowing the viewers to grasp intellectually the conflicts faced by the human minds - Kelvin, Snow and Gordon - as a result of some traumatically emotional events. Viewers are told that Dr. Gibarian has already committed suicide. These may all be psychologists, but they all seem to exhibit signs of stress and paranoia. Oh yes, the psychological intent of the film's contents is truly complex and we are slowly led to see who will finally be capable of making the right choice, and escape insanity. Earth, presumably, is a symbol of normality!

It's about the existential exploration of the minds' sufferings, almost as if the memories of the human mind are being driven to a test. It's reliving a past and letting memories play tricks on the minds. It's living on regrets, hoping they could rewind the clock backward to bring about changes to events that are gradually driving the victims to complete madness. Indeed, a very haunting! Almost like the work of Bergman, Ophuls, Kubrick, and Welles, Soderbergh brings a well-crafted mysticism to the screen.... as if to to say that only one out of many entering a mental asylum can ever hoped to be cured. This film is very hypnotically effective and unique! Solaris - seemingly like an alien memory-stimulating anthropomorphic life form - is so eerily powerful on the screen. It's the `mirror that reflects' what the mind is not willing to forget. It's the driving force to the human insanity.

George Clooney is simply awesome. Follow his Kelvin as he deals with the issues of love, fear and death. It deals with his choice to throw away every memory of his past or to cling to them. That's to say he has the choice to allow his memories to manipulate him, or throw them out altogether. I find it hardly possible not to get totally absorbed with Clooney's character. Scary as it may sound, ghostly memories are never easy to shake off and thus lead men to more deadly conditions. Sometimes for these beings, their choice of death becomes their ultimate solution of finding peace. The performances of the ensemble of cast are solid, but the dialogue is the strength of the film, providing hints to what actually is happening to the characters.

An intriguingly engaging film - that's my opinion, of course! The narrative progression is nicely eloquent and the ending is impressive - providing the viewers with the feeling of having unraveled the mystery and capture the relief. It's certainly not a film for everybody... especially for those who dislike deciphering abstract ploys in films. Readers of Jung and Freud may find this film interesting as it supports the theory that conflict arises within the mind, mental health and illness, dominance, creativity and hearing voices. Fan of Clooney may miss his usual extraordinary charm and wit, but I'd say, thumbs up to him for his courageous choice to engage the viewers with his talent in exhibiting his emotional expressions.

A brilliant film!
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Science Fiction Without Weapons and Starfighters
Hitchcoc10 January 2017
Once again we have people complaining about their boredom. It's so slow. A true psychological drama may appear slow because the person watching has such a short attention span and a limited world view. There, I've said it, Mister 1 out of 10. I prefer the Russian version of this book by Stanislaw Lem, but this is a worthy interpretation. The planet Solaris has an affect on anyone that approaches it. It is a sentient organism and so it isn't there to be exploited; it's there to protect itself. When George Clooney's character is called to investigate the goings on at a space station that has been set up to investigate access to a water planet, he walks into a surreal mass of images and tricks. Something is causing personages to appear on board the space station. A child who should not be there runs down a hallway. People are committing suicide or running away, frightened or overwhelmed by emotions. Clooney, despite being a rock, still succumbs to the planet's trickery because of his great love for his lost wife. I often like to look to movies for an intellectual challenge. It doesn't always work, but there are few that don't offer something to think about.
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An interesting statement about the inability to let go
mentalcritic18 November 2004
As a science fiction film, Solaris follows the same rule as the best of the genre, namely that it isn't the creatures or technology that makes the viewers want to watch, it is the human drama. Which is just as well, because the film itself is slower than the proverbial wet week, in spite of being less than a hundred minutes in length. Nonetheless, I will be very interested to see future projects from Steven Soderbergh.

The plot revolves around a psychologist who is suffering deep emotional problems, which mainly seem to revolve around the suicide of his wife. So when he is floating aimlessly around a spaceship that orbits the titular planet, apparitions of his wife begin appearing. From what I am able to discern, an alien intelligence is trying to take over the ship's crew, in the hope that the ship will return to Earth and take them with it. Of course, the crew have other ideas.

In essence, it sounds a lot like the basic plot for Alien, minus the violence. Alien has a degree of violence, most of which is implied, and so too does Solaris. The difference here is that the violence is not essential to the plot. In fact, aside from a couple of corpses, you never really get to see any. Instead, we are given a good deal of exposition regarding the doctor's feelings regarding his wife and what he would do to have her back in any shape or form. When the Solaris alien appears in his cabin, it tells him everything he wants to hear, and appears exactly as he desires.

The big question posed by the film is whether we are the sum of how we, and more importantly other people, remember us, or whether there's more that defines our reality. Having struggled with other people's wrong impressions of me for most of my life, I have often pondered this question myself. When the apparition-clone of Rheya is suddenly deciding that it would be best for her and Chris if she no longer existed in this form, she asks simply if she has simply been slapped together from Chris' memories or desires. Nobody ever knows all there is to know about another person, and that's what makes the surrealism of the story so compelling.

I gave Solaris a seven out of ten. It was slow, and it could have been at least ten minutes longer, but it works as a nice little piece of thinking entertainment. Give it a once over, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
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Why you should and shouldn't see Solaris
glenjordanspangler3 October 2011
Story Something is wrong on the space station orbiting the mysterious planet Solaris, so Chris Kelvin (Clooney) goes there, all alone, to find out what's going on and to persuade the crew to come home. Turns out, when one is near Solaris, one tends to see dead people--or duplicates thereof. In Kelvin's case, this would be a doppelganger of his deceased wife, Rheya (McElhone), which seems to have Rheya's personality traits and memories.

I had heard that Solaris was excruciatingly slow and, consequently, unbearably boring, but I didn't quite agree. I understood that many shots were included or extended to set the mood, and to illustrate thought and memory, and it was all visually interesting. I could see, for example, where Soderbergh showed his love for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey with lingering shots of Clooney in an astronaut's helmet, patterns of light reflected on its glass. However I would have traded the extra hour of atmospherics for a deeper exploration of the intriguing questions the premise raised. When we say we love someone, are we saying we love the sum of the person's characteristics? Were we to lose our loved one, would a twin with the same likes, dislikes, and quirks be a suitable replacement? Would you want to live on in the memories of your friends and family or, as Woody Allen prefers, to live on in your apartment? This film seems less interested in delving into these mysteries than it is in portraying grief and subjective memory. Valid objectives, but Solaris left me wanting to see an episode of the similarly themed Caprica (of which I've only seen the pilot movie).

Why you should see it You never got over that crush you developed on Clooney during his tenure on ER. You're in the mood for a visual poem of love and loss. You enjoy any movie set in outer space. You're the founder of Jeremy Davies/Dr. Faraday Fan Club.

Why you should avoid it Star Trek: The Next Generation was set in outer space too. Pick an episode and it will lead you through a debate of life's big questions, in half the time.

--from my review at
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Absorbing, haunting and gorgeous.
david-winborn13 May 2006
Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick decided to make the 'proverbial good sci-fi movie' when they jointly created the film and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. There have been few comparably good sci-fi films since. Solaris is, however, one of them.

Whilst the Russian original is an epic and demanding film, Soderbergh's work should not be considered a remake. The director himself considers it his own interpretation of the book, quite apart from the earlier film. Because of this, the two should not be compared.

If you hated Alien 3 because it didn't have any guns or 2001 because the ending was confusing, do not waste your time with Solaris. It is not for you.

Conceptually, the story is standard psychological sci-fi fare, with simple but effective theological and philosophical themes. In this respect it breaks little or no new ground over the Tarkovsky predecessor. It has elements of romance, thriller, and drama, all necessarily set in sci-fi land, as the setting is integral to the storytelling.

Visually, the Solaris future is a conservative, believable vision, reminiscent in look to that of Gatacca. Solaris space is a minimal, beautiful place to be. Not dirty and used like the celebrated Alien 'space trucker' look, Solaris vessels are gleaming, intricate and stylish, but seem to have been designed by engineers rather than artists, such is the practical realism. Their design is complemented by some of the best CG spaceship effects I have seen (incredible that it has taken this long for computer graphics to look as good as the model-based technology of 2001, Star Wars and Aliens in the 1960s and 70s).

Solaris, the planet itself, is a clever piece of art, seemingly evidencing a degree of emotion by its colouring and detail, as no doubt was the intention. In the commentary to the DVD it is mentioned that many of the lingering shots of the planet were cut, which may have been necessary for the pacing of the film, but I found every shot an absorbing spectacle and would have enjoyed more.

The sets and costumes also retain the sense of engineering realism combined with beauty. Soderbergh's eye for detail is evident here, as everything has a purpose and look that fits perfectly with the overall feel. Somehow, this look is original and avoids many of the clichés we come to expect of sci-fi mise-en-scene.

Channel Four recently showed this on UK television and billed it along the lines of a 'George Clooney Sci-Fi Romance'. A tenuous interpretation, perhaps, but you can see why they did it. Whilst Clooney adds Hollywood star appeal, fans will be slightly disappointed, not because his work here is in anyway weak, but because he is understated, convincing and very un-Hollywood. With Solaris he adds another fine performance to an already commendably diverse filmography.

Natascha McElhone too plays a difficult, emotive role without resorting to melodrama. The small supporting cast doesn't put a foot wrong, with a delightfully odd but subtly creepy performance from Jeremy Davies worthy of note.

Solaris is slow, abstract, haunting stuff. The direction is subtle, dare I say almost Kubrick-esquire. The camera work is non-intrusive, solid stuff without gimmick (apart from a touch of shaky-cam in the restaurant scene where Kelvin meets Rheya) or overstatement.

Add to this a beautiful, timeless score by Cliff Martinez and you have one of the better psychological sci-fi movies ever made.

The majority of people will hate Solaris. Let them. Let them have instead the mindless Hollywood trash released every week and keep this treasure for yourself.
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A cafe house/minimalist version of Stanislaw Lem's story
Maciste_Brother18 November 2003
SOLARIS, directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starring George Clooney, is one of those pointless remakes Hollywood has been making these past decades that adds almost nothing to the original classic. The movie itself is good. Not great or even close to being bad or a misfire, just good. Soderbergh basically boiled down the complex and epic story, as seen in the Russian film, into a simple MINIMALISTIC love story. Which made me wonder why did they even bother remaking the movie if all the science-fiction and metaphysical elements were thrown out? The story could have easily taken place entirely on earth. And instead of Solaris, the story could have been set in a mystical setting, like a haunted castle or an ancient archeological find. If you're going to set in space, might as well give the outer space aspect some sort of meaning to it. The minimalistic approach is interesting but the result is pointless. Having Rheya come back from the dead, sort of speaking, and her problems adjusting to her new reality reminded me a lot of the replicants' plight in BLADE RUNNER, which is what I think Soderbergh tried to do here. Who's reality is it?

My only criticism about the movie is the use of dreams and flashbacks. In the film, the Solaris planet takes a person's main dream while they're sleeping (there's even silly close-up shots of Clooney's cranium). These dreams are seen as "flashback" in the movie. Dreams are rarely that linear. One doesn't dream about one specific thing or person (in this case Kelvin dreaming about Rheya) all the time. And dreams are impressions of reality. So when Rheya comes back, looking exactly like Kelvin's wife, for me this points out to an obvious weakness in the whole concept of the Solaris planet going into a person's mind and grabbing their version of reality. If this was the case, the reincarnated Rheya should have looked slightly different that the Rheya on earth. Oddly enough, the way Soderbergh approached the idea of a planet reincarnating a long lost loved one into flesh reminded me of the SPACE 1999 episode, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, more than the Tarkovsky movie. But I find that the SPACE 1999 episode, even with all its faults, was more epic and poignant than Soderbergh's version of the Stanislaw Lem's story. There's just something anal retentive about Soderbergh's direction which prevents any kind of emotions to seep to the surface.

Unlike most people though, I wasn't bored at all with SOLARIS. In fact, movies like ARMAGEDDON, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK 2 or THE CORE were a thousand times more boring than this flick. It's just that the film's outcome is so predictable and that the script and filmmaker did nothing to alleviate this predictability that the pointlessness of the whole project comes to the fore. Good beginning. Predictable and flat ending.

And then there's another odd point about Soderbergh's SOLARIS: where did the money go? The film reportedly cost $80 to $100 million to make. The cast is tiny (four or five actors). There are very few special effects and the sets look like your standard spaceship sets you see on a TV show like STAR TREK VOYAGER. Why spend that huge amount of money on a simple, predictable love story? The film should have cost $30 to $40 million, not $100.

I love the Russian film a lot. But I can't say that Soderbergh create a disaster here or disservice to the Russian version or the book. It is a typically Soderbergh flick, which, on this aspect alone, sets it apart from the Russian movie. And like I've said, the film by itself is good. But in the end, it looks more like an episode of SPACE 1999 or THE TWILIGHT ZONE than a real movie.
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A beautiful high romance with existential issues of identity and reality thrown in--what an amazing trip!
secondtake24 February 2010
Solaris (2002)

Some might find Solaris slow, or slick, or opaque, and I think it is all those things and for a good reason. Unlike Moon (2009), which is like a Tom Waits (and simplified) version of the same core theme, or 2001 (1968), which has something utterly impersonal to distinguish it, Solaris is a love story. And you are meant to float--or better, you are meant to be weightless--in the experience.

The music (evocative dreamy music, by Cliff Martinez) alone makes clear we are in suspension. It's a trip, in the druggy sense and in spiritual sense. We have to figure out what these other beings really are (they look human, and some of them are) and we have to decide what it means to be alive (is it simply self-awareness?). We have to even decide whether the characters should live in the lie of some invented reality that feels utterly real, or to go for the old fashioned real thing and leave love behind.

If it's love at all. After awhile you realize it's a kind a narcissism. And then you wonder why not? Whatever works, right?

The movie is gently confusing. The lead is George Clooney. The whole movie is George Clooney. His love interest (undefined for here) is played by the big-eyed Natascha McElhone. If her staring eyes and gentle loving neediness seem a little overdone, it's for good reason. As you'll see (blame George). And the planet itself, exerting some kind of power over the consciousness of the humans on this floating (large) spaceship, represents something approaching God in its power and mystery. It's an atheist's movie, I'm sure, but filled with spiritual and human optimism.

Most viewers don't know that this is a remake, and hard core film buffs dismiss this American Steven Soderbergh version as Hollywood at its worst (big budget, sentimental, pretty beyond reason). The earlier Soviet version (from 1972) is really interesting, too, and parts of it are even slower. On purpose. Other parts seem dated, to me, and if I think of the effects and the idea as ahead of its time, I remind myself that this earlier one is after, not before, Kubrick's Space Odyssey and so the whole progression is skewed. The Soviet version also seems more sexist, more male dominant, and whatever demeaning qualities exist in this more recent one, they seem more in balance, man to woman, at least in a less male gaze way.

But academic analysis creeps in on a movie that is really much more about experiencing its mood, its tragedy and hope, and its delicate floating beauty, which I seem to enjoy without thinking too hard. There are moments, including the Michelangelo creation scene with the boy (yes!), that push it far too far (and seem Kubrick inspired, without Kubrick's icy sensibility). You might also be able to edit it differently to make it more compact. But these are debates to have once you've seen the movie. A warning: it's depressing to some people. To me, though, it's soothing. And the open ended qualities might make you want to see it again.
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Like aged wine, this film increases in value at every re-showing, make certain you see it at least twice, its excellent
inkblot1130 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Dr. Chris (George Clooney), a psychiatrist, lives in the future, where travel to far away planets is a reality. One of his closest friends, Gibarian, who introduced Chris to his now-deceased wife, Rheya (Natascha McElhone), is presently on distant Solaris. A group of scientists are studying the planet to see if there are minerals or other elements that would be valuable on earth. Since his wife has not been dead very long, Chris has been living in a semi-funk. But, by teleview, Gibarian suddenly asks the doc to voyage to Solaris, for there are strange happenings afoot. Having no other choice but to try to help his friend, Chris makes the journey. But, when he lands, tragedy hits him in the face. Gibarian is in a bodybag and there are only two living members of the team on the space station in orbit. Snow, a technician, tells Chris that some members committed suicide, like Gibarian, others died and one vanished altogether. The planet itself has been giving off bizarre signals and may be responsible. The other survivor, Dr. Gordon (Viola Davis) locks herself in her room and is paranoid to the point of hostility. Chris settles down for the night, where he dreams of his wife. He recalls meeting her, marrying her, and finding her dead, a result of suicide, too. Suddenly awake, Chris is startled to see Rheya at his bedside. How is this possible? She doesn't know and Chris is so frightened, he sends her off to die in space, thinking she's some kind of alien being in disguise. Snow and Gordon are not surprised to hear his tale and relate other beings, including Gibarian's son, who have shown up. But, as Gordon tells it, these creatures are "copies" of the original humans, made by Solaris, from the memories of folks such as Chris. What a concept! Unbelievably, Rheya shows up again, in a new body, and this time Chris wants her to stay. But, Gordon insists nouveau-Rheya cannot return to earth and the remaining team members need to leave as soon as possible, for she, Gordon, has developed a "ray gun" that will get rid of the replicants forever. She will take them down, one by one, and then they will leave, for the space station is getting pulled closer and closer into the Solaris surface by gravity. What will result? This amazing, beautiful, tantalizing film is a triumph for Stephen Soderbergh and all of the actors. Based on a Polish novel and a classic Russian film, its story is a labyrinth that has to be seen more than once to truly appreciate. The photography is sensational and so is the very moving score. Clooney, McElhone, Davis, and Davies are all nearly perfect as the humans trapped in the space station. Add on great costumes, sets, and direction and you have a film worthy of robust praise. Yes, its somewhat slow in nature but its the best tempo for a film that needs reflection and discovery at every turn. Bravo, SS, and film fans, go now to find this jewel at the nearest outlet on Planet Earth.
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Wow! - hold onto your mind before diving into this film - a refreshingly excellent sci-fi story
charles00017 November 2010
I had not read the book, nor seen the well known earlier Russian version of this story on film, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but had at least some notion that this film would be more than just a bit "different".

I was not disappointed! Folks, if your "thing" for sci-fi outer space genre' films is the usual suspect cliché' ad nauseum of invading creatures, violent chase scenes and exploding space ships, this is definitely not your film.

Warning . . . warning . . . warning . . .

This film requires and will induce thought.

Concepts like define existence, what exactly is death, or life for that matter, is only the beginning edge of where this story takes you, as one follows George Clooney's character out into deep space aboard a corporate financed space station in orbit around Solaris.

While living on Earth, he's summoned to go out to the station, to solve a "problem" that no one can understand or even describe . . .

The minute he steps on board the craft, you know something's up . . . but in ways that go far outside the box of "the usual suspect" plot line.

As for the characters and the actors who portray them, of course. I could watch George Clooney in just about anything, but the real star here is Natascha McElhone, as Rheya. The chemistry between these two is obvious, but Natascha has her own depth of character complexity that I cannot find words for here, but is absolutely compelling to watch.

No, I'm not going to meander down a laundry list of what happens at various key pivot points in this story, as such would be tedious, and hopelessly inadequate to convey the experience this film delivers.

From a technical and aesthetic perspective, this is a very beautiful, well crafted example of the artform. There is no wasted space as it were. Every scene is composed and integrated together to literally create an evolving artpiece containing a story, populated with living beings enmeshed into emotional complexities who may, or may not . . . be human, sort of . . .

But that description can't even begin to hint at what is going on here in this unique story. For that, you'll just have see it for yourself.

I humbly suggest investing the time to see this - you won't be disappointed
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In space, no one can hear you snore.
NewDivide170129 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
One tag-line for this movie is "There are some places man is not ready to go," like into the theatre playing this movie. The other tag-line is "How far will you go for a second chance?" Apparently as far as death by boredom.

This movie is about regret, consequences, and redemption. Regret for actually seeing it. Consequences, waste of an afternoon and money for the DVD rental. Redemption, none.

According to the director, Steven Soderbergh, the movie concentrates on the love George Clooney's character feels for his dead wife. And how far he will go to be with her again. But all he did was take 15-20 minutes of useful story, and stretched it into a 90 minute movie by adding on 70 minutes of useless garbage. Also, it seems as though he ignored the enigma of the living planet Solaris.

Where the whole story could have been made on an episode of the Outer Limits, only a part of the story was used into making a major snooze fest.
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Interesting but not really fulfilling
JoelB12 December 2002
There are a number of good things about this movie, but ultimately it felt to me like a lost opportunity. It raised provocative psychological issues but never carried me away or led me to anything like an epiphany. In the latter half, I was in fact a bit bored. It certainly isn't enthralling like Tarkovsky's version. Rheya's character is better developed, particularly her own psychological trauma in being a "creation" (Tarkovsky's Rheya was something of a naif in comparison). But what I missed from Tarkovsky's version is the sense of humor (this one is stiflingly earnest) and the evocative and poignant use of Bach chorales in the soundtrack. The soundtrack to this one is intriguing (a la Brian Eno, Ligeti, and Thomas Newman's scores for The Player and American Beauty), but I eventually found myself desperately longing for a cadence. Lacking the feeling of redemption communicated musically in Tarkovsky's version, this one had to rely on ham-handed statements of fact. And finally, I can't help remarking that neither Tarkovsky nor Soderbergh really convey the element of shame and sexual deviance that played such an important part in Lem's original. Both place the emphasis instead on guilt, which isn't quite the same thing, is it?
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works better as years go on, and more experience (emotionally more than intellectually) is gained
Quinoa19841 July 2010
The first time I saw Solaris, I was turned off by it. Maybe it wasn't the right time or I wasn't in the right mood, but it just felt cold, distant, like it couldn't connect, and that Clooney's performance was stoic but that he didn't do much except pose with wide eyes at his dead wife re-incarnated on a space ship. But life changes, times change, and my appreciation of film has grown in eight years (and also emotionally maturing from late teens to twenties does some difference as well). The film works now like a poem for loss and love, as opposed to a stilted science fiction story. It also rings with resonance since it feels like Soderbergh, as director/writer/DP/editor, has gone through similar or just exact emotions as characters in this film, or at least his surrogate in Clooney. He's gone through love and loss, and time, much like his main character (and like for many of us with memory), becomes splintered. The backdrop is fantastic, but is just right for what is emphasized in the story.

It's also a gorgeously shot film, I should add. While it probably might not trump its predecessor of the material, Tarkovsky's 1972 film, it comes close, closer than would be expected. Again, what seemed like a cold style seeing it years ago changes with coming to it with a better appreciation of the technique that's employed here. It's significant that primarily the scenes inside the spaceship are all locked-down, only pans and tilting with the camera, and the scenes back on Earth- the memories of Clooney and McElhone's characters on Earth when they were married- are hand-held in camera, frenetic, more emotionally harrowing in the realistic breakdown of a marriage over time. Soderbergh's emphasis is direct, and he wants us to feel it as well, especially when the characters' minds break off into those memories, and as a time-line becomes one.

The acting is also a great measure of Soderbergh's trust in the material. It's deeply emotional work, usually in the way that character do or try to hold back what is really going on, but when it comes over a character it's harrowing. I loved the moment when, for example, the 2nd version of Rheya is resurrected after she tries to kill herself with liquid oxygen on the ship. This should be nothing new to aficionados of science fiction (and indeed it was also a key scene in the original Tarkovsky film, done equally with passion and terror), but its handled solemnly, like this itself is sort of a tragedy, knowing how real-but-fake this Rheya is, especially when she becomes aware when waking up (watch her eyes in that moment, it's really extraordinary). Other supporting work from Jeremy Davies as a slightly crazy but intellectual comic-relief comes in (maybe the side of Soderbergh that's intelligent but erratic?), and Viola Davis as the real captain of the ship, trying to stick to reason.

It's further impressive to see how Soderbergh, via James Cameron's fx company, utilizes the shots of space. There is wonder and awe, and certainly the music (co-opting off of 2001: A Space Odyssey, particularly the Jupiter Landing) works with them like attachments. But it's not used to overcome the viewer, just as a means of 'this is where they are'. What matters here are the characters; even if it is gorgeous and spectacular to look outside at the sights of space, what will happen to these people first? Soderbergh's film, one of his better ones really, focuses on the scope of human experience set in light and dark, reality and nightmare, like a poem suffused in what is haunting and bizarre. I hope to revisit it every so often. 9.5/10
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One man's search for meaning.
blanchjoe9 December 2005
What does it mean to be? Is the sense of individuated existence, that sense of being an "I" over and against and within a universe of things and processes that are not "I" real or is it an illusion? In both versions of the film Solaris this subject is explored.

Solaris is not a discussion upon the classic What Is Reality inquiry, but instead does a wonderful job of examining the question of what does it mean to be ourselves, and what is it about ourselves that is unique or even real? The planet Solaris becomes an artistic representation of the true Unknown, and the unknown is that state in which we all exist in, but in which we create forms of meaning to encapsulate the mystery of this moment within the illusion of the Known.

Solaris presents through its actions and its very existence a format for the characters, and the viewers, to examine what it means to live safely within the illusion of the Known, but where the reality is actually an existence in which the Known is not a possibility.

Do not approach this film with the intention of understanding some final conclusion, for like life itself, it is the writers intention that we question our assumptions about this movie, and possibly about our own lives as well.
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Disappointing if you've read the book; baffling if you haven't
charles_knouse3 September 2003
Since I had just read Lem's novel Solaris and had in the past seen the 1972 Russian movie Solyaris, I was interested in seeing the new Solaris. Someone not familiar with the story may well be baffled by the movie. Those who have read the book will recognize the plot up to close to the end, where the movie veers off in its own attempt for a resolution that Lem did not seem to think necessary to provide in the novel.

I was disappointed that the movie had almost nothing to say or show about the sentient ocean of Solaris and humanity's failure to comprehend it. The book went into great detail in describing the fantastic phenomena of the ocean and the various failed theories to explain them. In fact I think that was the central theme of the book which is almost completely lost in the movie.
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Eternity has just gotten a new name.
ailinon7 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Reading the reviews of this movie, I cannot help but recall a short comedy clip which I saw somewhere. It featured a modern art gallery, full of well-dressed high-class people, walking around and commenting on various wacky paintings, until the camera pans over to several elderly men surrounding another example of art on another wall. They point at it, comment how surrealistic it is, how the author managed to capture this and that, how perfect and how brilliant it is - until the "painting" begins moving, and drives off, it being just a piece of a soft drink advert pinned to the side of a truck that was parked outside a gallery window.

"Deliberately slow-paced"? I don't mind slow-paced movies, not at all, but watching minute after minute of slow walking and talking about nothing in particular while the important issues remain completely unmentioned, is a bit too much. "Brilliant in its meaning"? _What_ meaning, excuse me? I cannot find any possible interesting explanation of its ending, really - the only two meanings I can see is one horribly shallow, cheap sappy excuse for a romantic sacrifice dressed in an old "meaning of humanity" robe, or a big twist beyond any possible reasoning. The former being surprisingly more likely.

** SPOILERS ** - my quick overview of what, in my opinion, went wrong in the movie.

First of all, who in their right mind sends a single civilian to a space station, when previously a military task force failed in there?

Next, suppose your deceased beloved one materializes next to you. Would your first impulse be to chat a bit and then simply kill that person again (as they're not real anyway), then watch them reappear, and then become emotionally attached to them again? Sounds weird, doesn't it? But that's what Clooney does in there.

This only gets worse in the ending. Clooney sees a vision of his own "clone" (cloone?:) on Earth, and decides to stay on the crash-coursed station. Why? For the sake of his dead wife that wasn't even there? Come on. But if it is so, what does this "Clooney-clone on Earth" stuff mean? It just doesn't make sense at all. The only thing that comes to my mind is "we are all clones created by someone", but I refuse to believe in such a banal idea, which actually doesn't fit in that moment anyway.


So what point the movie is trying to make, remains a mystery to me. "We live only for the ones we love, even when they're dead"? Please. "We only exist when someone remembers us"? Not explored enough. "Everything is just an illusion"?? Puh-leeease...!!

In a nutshell, the biggest problem with this movie was its pride. It presents itself like a piece of deep, meaningful art, giving time to think, to absorb, to conclude... but there is nothing to think of. The message is shallow and undecided, jumping from Harlequin romance to weary existence questions, like a hamburger served on a silver plate. There is nothing new in this movie, except exceptional boredom. It failed as a "cerebral movie", it failed as a SF, it failed as a romance. I'm sorry, but it is simply a bad movie defended only by an old "you don't like it because you don't understand it!" line. Yeah, been there, done that. 2/10.
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A valiant, but muddled, attempt.
innocuous9 October 2003
I must give Soderbergh credit for trying, but I agree with many other reviewers who find significant flaws in this movie.

I will be brief.

First, contrary to what some other reviewers have stated, there is no need whatsoever for the science fiction component of this story. It may as well have taken place at a cabin on a lake in Maine. In this respect, it betrays the legacies of both Lem and Tarkovsky.

Second, the questions it raises are not particularly profound ones. Do we feel guilt and how does it affect us? Is memory reality? What would we do when given a second chance, and would it trivialize all we have previously experienced? Unfortunately, these are developed and explored no better than the hypothetical question, "If you could be invisible, what would you do?" And where Soderbergh apparently wishes to address issues in casual conversation, the thoughts of these supposedly highly-educated and experienced individuals are, in fact, quite banal.

Third, the acting is above-average, but not in any way exceptional. I truly am a rationalist and skeptic, just like Clooney's character, and I did not identify with his character or his situation at all.

Finally, the movie is indeed very slowly paced. No, I wasn't looking for giant bugs or technical dissertations on cryo-sleep...I just wanted some advancement of the plot...or at least some character development.

In summary, this movie is slightly interesting, but it is ultimately frustrating and unfulfilling. Like some other reviewers, I kept bringing up the time remaining display on the DVD player and thinking, "I've still got 45 minutes of this to sit through?"

Rating: * out of ****
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Not for all viewers but a interesting, intelligent and emotionally engaging sci-fi
bob the moo28 May 2006
An isolated research station goes out of contact while in orbit around the planet of Solaris. A military unit is sent to investigate but they also go out of contact, while attempts to raise the space station's AI unit on board fail as the crew have disabled it. The only hope for the company is a message sent from crew member Gibarian to his old friend Chris Klein – inviting him to come to the space station and help the crew. Klein is himself a troubled psychologist but Gibarian seems to think that Klein's "experience" will make him useful.

As if I didn't have enough reasons to admire George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, here I find myself with another one in this marvellously engaging remake. Those looking for a sci-fi filled with mystery and answers will be disappointed as this is very much in the hearts of the characters and is not anything like Event Horizon (how I laughed as I read complaints about that from my fellow reviewers). To me this was not so much about where it was going, or getting answers at the end but about the individual scenes and the internal struggles of Chris and Rheya. The downside of this is that some scenes are weak and there isn't really a narratively satisfying conclusion. This didn't matter too much to me because the film did an amazing job of being emotionally engaging within the context of a sci-fi. I was easily drawn into the history between the two characters and the reasons for their intense feelings – which is where the story exists. I understand why the film failed to set the box office alight here in the UK but this is easily one of the most interesting films I've seen out of Hollywood in the last few years.

Soderbergh's direction is excellent. All at once it is controlled and rather detached while also bringing out the emotion in the story. The editing together of sequences is inspired and the whole film has a feeling of not being totally real – like a dream of sorts, which I suppose is very much the point of it. He benefits from a couple of tremendous performances and several good ones. Clooney is excellent and he is matched by McElhone. Both are convincing and make the film as engaging as it was, how their performances never showed up on my awards radar I don't know. At its best the film is a two-hander but the support is good from Davies, Davis and Tukur.

Overall this is an emotionally convincing and engaging film. The sci-fi element is interesting and leaves a nice air once the film is finished but the real hook is the emotional development of the characters both in real time and flashback. As time and place become less clearly defined, the emotions become stronger and the film gets better. I can understand why some people disliked this but I enjoyed it immensely.
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I Loved It, But It's Not For Everyone
slightlymad2230 January 2015
I loved this movie, I do understand why it is not for everyone, as a lot of it is open to interpretation and there are no clear answers or resolutions, but that is what I love about it. It makes you think long after the final credits have rolled.

Plot in A Paragraph: Upon arrival at the space station orbiting an world called Solaris Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) a psychologist discovers that the commander of an expedition to the planet has died mysteriously. Other strange events soon start happening, such as the appearance of old acquaintances of the crew, including some who are dead. Klein struggles with the questions of Solaris' motivation, his beliefs and memories, and reconciling what was lost with an opportunity for a second chance.

Gripping, absorbing, thought provoking and wonderfully filmed, I enjoyed this an insane amount. I use it as one of my relaxing movies on a night to help me fall asleep (I don't mean that as a bad thing) as there are long periods of no dialogue and just beautiful music which I drift off too. Another movie I do this to, is the Burt Reynolds movie "Sharky's Machine" and his character is on stakeout duty. Again little or no dialogue just the score and I nod off.

Clooney and Natasha McElhone make a wonderful couple and have some good on screen chemistry. I'm surprised they have not worked together again, but when a movie tanks like this did, actors like to distance themselves as much as possible.

I think whoever was behind the promotion for this movie dropped the ball as they didn't know how to "sell" this movie, as the trailers and posters do not represent the movie at all, and can see why people thought they were going to see something else.
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read the novel
elvindill24 March 2003
While Soderbergh's Solaris may well be a work of art in its own right, I certainly pity those who haven't read the book or at least seen Tarkovsky's 1972 original adaptation, which is a lot more faithful to Lem's novel in its scope, if not in its vision. Soderbergh has managed to leave out just about everything that could justify the title (as Lem himself put it, if he had set out to write a book about space romance, he would have called it Love in Outer Space, not Solaris). So if you want to know the story, go and read the novel.

That said, I enjoyed Jeremy Davis as Snow, and the score is very good.
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Thought-provoking, powerful and evocative film
keyspoet21 December 2003
I rented this film, then did some last minute Christmas shopping. While I was gone, my husband watched the first half of "Solaris" and turned it off - twice. He then watched "Terminator 3," which he enjoyed.

After he went off to bed. I started "Solaris." Unlike my husband, I was hooked from the start, and thoroughly enjoyed being reeled in. This is what I look for in a film - a compelling, nuanced story, involving complex characters. Perhaps it appealed to me more than to some, because I have lost several loved ones in recent years, including my father who died three years ago today, and am therefore wrestling with the same questions pondered in the film. Or perhaps I'm just a sucker for a good story, deftly told.

I don't think we would have necessarily had a better or worse film had Cameron written the screenplay, merely a different film altogether. I give him more credit than many on this board, as "The Abyss" is and remains a favorite film of mine, and only defied the laws of physics a few times. ;-) Certainly "The Abyss" is a quieter and more introspective film than the Terminator series, but then again, the films do examine the same themes. It might have been interesting to see what Cameron would have done with "Solaris," hopefully sans car chases.

Personally, I am glad Soderbergh wrote this version, as there is very little I would change. I enjoyed every minute of it. The musical score captured and enhanced the atmosphere quite well. I remember hearing about the original "Solaris," which came out the year I started high school, but I never saw it. Having now seen this version, I'll make it a point to do so, and I'll read the book as well. I will definitely be adding this film to my collection.

As for my husband, I probably won't recommend that he see it right away. Instead, I'll let him see it over time, as he did "The Shipping News," which also put him off initially. Once he got past the move to Newfoundland, he began to understand the humor I saw in the film, but he still despises its more depressing aspects. Still, he considers my taste in films weird, and to date understands neither my love for "Jacob's Ladder" nor my devotion to "Six Feet Under."

But then, he doesn't like jazz, either. ;-)
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